Thud!


Chapter 1




THUD! The first thing Tak did, he wrote himself. The second thing Tak did, he wrote the Laws. The third thing Tak did, he wrote the World. The fourth thing Tak did, he wrote a cave. The fifth thing Tak did, he wrote a geode, an egg of stone. And in the twilight of the mouth of the cave, the geode hatched and the Brothers were born. The first Brother walked towards the light, and stood under the open sky. Thus he became too tall. He was the first Man. He found no Laws, and he was enlightened. The second Brother walked towards the darkness, and stood under a roof of stone. Thus he achieved the correct height. He was the first Dwarf. He found the Laws Tak had written, and he was endarkened. But some of the living spirit of Tak was trapped in the broken stone egg, and it became the first troll, wandering the world unbidden and unwanted, without soul or purpose, learning or understanding. Fearful of light and darkness it shambles for ever in twilight, knowing nothing, learning nothing, creating nothing, being nothing ... -From "Gd Tak "Gar" (The Things Tak Wrote) trans. Prof. W. W. W Wildblood, Unseen University Press, AM$8. In the original, the last paragraph of the quoted text appears to have been added by a much later hand. Him who mountain crush him no Him who sun him stop him no Him who hammer him break him no Him who fire him fear him no Him who raise him head above him heart Him diamond - Translation of Troll pictograms found carved on a basalt slab in the deepest level of the Ankh-Morpork treacle mines, in pig-treacle measures estimated at 500,000 years old. Thud... That was the sound the heavy club made as it connected with the head. The body jerked, and slumped back. And it was done, unheard, unseen: the perfect end, a perfect solution, a perfect story. But, as the dwarfs say, where there is trouble you will always find a troll. The troll saw. It started out as a perfect day. It would soon enough be an imperfect one, he knew, but just for these few minutes it was possible to pretend that it wouldn"t. Sam Vimes shaved himself. It was his daily act of defiance, a confirmation that he was ... well, plain Sam Vimes. Admittedly he shaved himself in a mansion, and while he did so his butler read out bits from the Times, but they were just ... circumstances. It was still Sam Vimes looking back at him from the mirror. The day he saw the Duke of Ankh in there would be a bad day. "Duke" was just a job description, that"s all. "Most of the news is about the current ... dwarfish situation, sir," said Willikins as Vimes negotiated the tricky area under the nose. He still used his grandad"s cut-throat razor. It was another anchor to reality. Besides, the steel was a lot better than the steel you got today. Sybil, who had a strange enthusiasm for modern gadgetry, kept on suggesting he get one of those new shavers, with a little magic imp inside that had its own scissors and did all the cutting very quickly, but Vimes had held out. If anyone was going to be using a blade near his face, it was going to be him. "Koom Valley, Koom Valley ," he muttered to his reflection. "Anything new?" "Not as such, sir," said Willikins, turning back to the front page. "There is a report of that speech by Grag Hamcrusher. There was a disturbance afterwards, it says. Several dwarfs and trolls were wounded. Community leaders have appealed for calm." Vimes shook some lather off the blade. "Hah! I bet they have. Tell me, Willikins, did you fight much when you were a kid? Were you in a gang or anything?" "I was privileged to belong to the Shamlegger Street Rude Boys, sir," said the butler. "Really?" said Vimes, genuinely impressed. "They were pretty tough nuts, as I recall." "Thank you, sir," said Willikins smoothly. "I pride myself I used to give somewhat more than I got if we needed to discuss the vexed area of turf issues with the young men from Rope Street. Stevedore"s hooks were their weapon of choice, as I recall." "And yours ... ?"said Vimes, agog. "A cap-brim sewn with sharpened pennies, sir. An ever-present help in times of trouble." "Ye gods, man! You could put someone"s eye out with something like that." "With care, sir, yes," said Willikins, meticulously folding a towel. And here you stand now, in your pinstripe trousers and butlering coat, shiny as schmaltz and fat as butter, Vimes thought, while he tidied up under the ears. And I"m a Duke. How the world turns. "And have you ever heard someone say "Let"s have a disturbance"?" he said. "Never, sir," said Willikins, picking up the paper again. "Me neither. It only happens in newspapers: Vimes glanced at the bandage on his arm. It had been quite disturbing, even so. "Did it mention I took personal charge?" he said. "No, sir. But it does say here that rival factions in the street outside were kept apart by the valiant efforts of the Watch, sir." "They actually used the word "valiant"?" said Vimes. "Indeed they did, sir." "Well, good," Vimes conceded grumpily. "Do they record that two officers had to be taken to the Free Hospital, one of them quite badly hurt?" "Unaccountably not, sir," said the butler. "Huh. Typical. Oh, well ... carry on." Willikins coughed a butlery cough. "You might wish to lower the razor for the next one, sir. I got into trouble with her ladyship about last week"s little nick." Vimes watched his image sigh, and lowered the razor. "All right, Willikins. Tell me the worst." Behind him, the paper was professionally rustled. "The headline on page three is: "Vampire Officer For The Watch?", said the butler, and took a careful step backwards. "Damn! Who told them?" "I really couldn"t say, sir. It says you are not in favour of vampires in the Watch but will be interviewing a recruit today. It says there is a lively controversy over the issue." "Turn to page eight, will you?" said Vimes. Behind him, the paper rustled again. "Well?" he said. "That"s where they usually put their silly political cartoon, isn"t it?" "You did put the razor down, did you, sir?" said Willikins. "Yes!" "Perhaps it would also be just as well if you stepped away from the washbasin, too, sir." "There"s one of me, isn"t there ..: said Vimes grimly. "Indeed there is, sir. It portrays a small nervous vampire and, if I may say so, a rather larger-than-life drawing of yourself leaning over your desk, holding a wooden stake in your right hand. The caption is: "Any good on a stake-out, eh?" sir, this being a humorous wordplay referring, on the one hand, to the standard police procedure-" "Yes, I think I can just about spot it," said Vimes wearily. "Any chance you could nip down and buy the original before Sybil does? Every time they run a cartoon of me she gets hold of it and hangs it up in the library!" "Mr, er, Fizz does capture a very good likeness, sir," the butler conceded. "And I regret to say that her ladyship has already instructed me to go down to the Times office on her behalf." Vimes groaned. "Moreover, sir, Willikins went on, "her ladyship desired me to remind you that she and Young Sam will meet you at the studio of Sir Joshua at eleven sharp, sir. The painting is at an important stage, I gather." "But I-" "She was very specific, sir. She said if a commander of police cannot take time off, who can?" On this day in 1802, the painter Methodia Rascal woke up in the night because the sounds of war fare were coming from a drawer in his bedside table. Again. One little light illuminated the cellar, which is to say that it lent different textures to the darkness and divided shadow from darker shadow. The figures barely showed up at all. It was quite impossible, with normal eyes, to tell who was talking. "This is not to be talked about, do you understand?" "Not talked about? He"s dead!" "This is dwarf business! It"s not to come to the ears of the City Watch! They have no place here! Do any of us want them down here?" "They do have dwarf officers-" "Hah. D"rkza. Too much time in the sun. They"re just short humans now. Do they think dwarf? And Vimes will dig and dig and wave the silly rags and tatters they call laws. Why should we allow such a violation? Besides, this is hardly a mystery. Only a troll could have done it, agreed? I said: Are we agreed?" "That is what happened," said a figure. The voice was thin and old and, in truth, uncertain. "Indeed, it was a troll," said another voice, almost the twin of that one, but with a little more assurance. The subsequent pause was underlined by the ever-present sound of the pumps. "It could only have been a troll," said the first voice. "And is it not said that behind every crime you will find the troll?" There was a small crowd outside the Watch House in Pseudopolis Yard when Commander Sam Vimes arrived at work. It had been a fine sunny morning up until then. Now it was still sunny, but nothing like as fine. The crowd had placards. "Bloodsuckers out!!, Vimes read, and "No Fangs!" Faces turned towards him with a sullen, half-frightened defiance. He uttered a bad word under his breath, but only just. Otto Chriek, the Times iconographer, was standing near by, holding a sunshade and looking dejected. He caught Vimes"s eye and trudged over. "What"s in this for you, Otto?" said Vimes. "Come to get a picture of a jolly good riot, have you?" "It"s news, commander," said Otto, looking down at his very shiny shoes. "Who tipped you off?" "I just do zer pictures, commander," said Otto, looking up with a hurt expression. "Anyvay, I couldn"t tell you even if I knew, because of zer Freedom of zer Press." "Freedom to pour oil on a flame, d"you mean?" Vimes demanded. "That"s freedom for you," said Otto. "No vun said it vas nice." "But ... well, you"re a vampire, too!" said Vimes, waving a hand towards the protesters. "Do you like what"s been stirred up?" "It"s still news, commander," said Otto meekly. Vimes glared at the crowd again. It was mostly human. There was one troll, although admittedly the troll had probably joined in on general principles, simply because something was happening. A vampire would need a masonry drill and a lot of patience before it could put a troll to any trouble. Still, there was one good thing, if you could call it that: this little sideshow took people"s minds off Koom Valley. "It"s strange that they don"t seem to mind you, Otto," he said, calming down a little. "yell, I"m not official," said Otto. "I do not haf zer sword and zer badge. I do not threaten. I am just a vorking stiff. And I make zem laff." Vimes stared at the man. He"d never thought about that before. But yes ... Little fussy Otto, in his red-lined black opera cloak with pockets for all his gear, his shiny black shoes, his carefully cut widow"s peak and, not least, his ridiculous accent that grew thicker or thinner depending on who he was talking to, did not look like a threat. He looked funny, a joke, a music-hall vampire. It had never previously occurred to Vimes that, just possibly, the joke was on other people. Make them laugh, and they"re not afraid. He nodded to Otto and went inside, where Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom was standing - on a box - at the too high duty officer"s desk, her chevrons all shiny and new on her sleeve. Vimes made a mental note to do something about the box. Some of the dwarf officers were getting sensitive about having to use it. "I think we could do with a couple of lads standing outside, Cheery," he said. "Nothing provocative, just a little reminder to people that we keep the peace." "I don"t think we"ll need that, Mister Vimes," said the dwarf. "I"m not interested in seeing a picture in the Times showing the Watch"s first vampire recruit being mobbed by protesters, corpsergeant," said Vimes severely. "I thought you wouldn"t be, sir," said Cheery. "So I asked Sergeant Angua to fetch her. They came in the back way half an hour ago. She"s showing her the building. I think they"re down in the locker room." "You asked Angua to do it?" said Vimes, his heart sinking. "Yessir?" said Cheery, suddenly looking worried. "Er ... is there a problem?" Vimes stared at her. She"s a good orderly officer, he thought. I wish I had two more like her. And she deserved the promotion, heavens know, but, he reminded himself, she"s from Uberwald, isn"t she? She should have remembered about the ... thing between them and werewolves. Maybe it"s my fault. I tell "em that all coppers are just coppers. "What? Oh, no," he said. "Probably not." A vampire and a werewolf in one room, he thought, as he headed on up the stairs to his office. Well, they"ll just have to deal with it. And that"ll be only the first of our problems. "And I took Mr Pessimal up to the interview room," Cheery called after him. Vimes stopped mid-stair. "Pessimal?" he said. "The government inspector, sir?" said Cheery. "The one you told me about?" Oh yes, thought Vimes. The second of our problems. It was politics. Vimes could never get a handle on politics, which was full of traps for honest men. This one had been sprung last week, in Lord Vetinari"s office, at the normal daily meeting ... "Ah, Vimes," said his lordship as Vimes entered. "So kind of you to come. Isn"t it a beautiful day?" Up until now, Vimes thought, when he spotted the two other people in the room. "You wanted me, sir?" he said, turning to Vetinari again. "There"s a Silicon Anti-Defamation League march in Water Street and I"ve got traffic backed up all the way to Least Gate-" "I"m sure it can wait, commander. "Yes, sir. That"s the trouble, sir. That"s what it"s doing." Vetinari waved a languid hand. "But full carts congesting the street, Vimes, is a sign of progress," he declared. "Only in the figurative sense, sir," said Vimes. "Well, at any rate I"m sure your men can deal with it," said Vetinari, nodding to an empty chair. "You have so many of them now. Such an expense. Do sit down, commander. Do you know Mr John Smith?" The other man at the table took the pipe out of his mouth and gave Vimes a smile of manic friendliness. "I don"t believe wwwe have had the pleasure," he said, extending a hand. It should not be possible to roll your double-yous, but John Smith managed it. Shake hands with a vampire? Not bloody likely, Vimes thought, not even one wearing a badly handknitted pullover. He saluted instead. "Pleased to meet you, sir," he said crisply, standing to attention. It really was an awful garment, that pullover. It had a queasy zigzag pattern, in many strange, unhappy colours. It looked like something knitted as a present by a colour-blind aunt, the sort of thing you wouldn"t dare throw away in case the rubbish collectors laughed at you and kicked your bins over. "Vimes, Mr Smith is-" Vetinari began. "President of the Ankh-Morpork Mission of the Uberwald League of Temperance," said Vimes. "And I believe the lady next to him to be Mrs Doreen Winkings, treasurer of same. This is about having a vampire in the Watch, isn"t it, sir? Again: "Yes, Vimes, it is," said Vetinari. "And, yes, it is again. Shall we all be seated? Vimes?" There was no escape, Vimes knew, as he sagged resentfully into a chair. And this time he was going to lose. Vetinari had cornered him. Vimes knew all the arguments for having different species in the Watch. They were good arguments. Some of the arguments against them were bad arguments. There were trolls in the Watch, plenty of dwarfs, one werewolf, three golems, an Igor and, not least, Corporal Nobbs, [1] so why not a vampire? And the League of Temperance was a fact. Vampires wearing the League"s Black Ribbon ("Not one Drop!") were a fact, too. Admittedly, vampires who had sworn off blood could be a bit weird, but they were intelligent and clever and as such a potential asset to society. And the Watch was the most visible arm of government in the city. Why not set an example? Because, said Vimes"s battered but still functional soul, you hate bloody vampires. No messing about, no dissembling, no weasel words about "the public won"t stand for it" or "it"s not the right time. You hate bloody vampires and it"s your bloody Watch. The other three were staring at him. "Mr Vimes," said Mrs Winkings, "ve cannot help but notice that you still haf not employed any of our members in the Vatch . . Say "Watch, why don"t you? Vimes thought. I know you can. Let the twenty-third letter of the alphabet enter your life. Ask Mr Smith for some, he"s got more than enough. Anyway, I have a new argument. It"s copper bottomed. "Mrs Winkings," he said aloud, "no vampire has applied to join the Watch. They"re just not mentally suited to a copper"s way of life. And it"s Commander Vimes, thank you." Mrs Winkings"s little eyes gleamed with righteous malice. "Oh, are you sayink vampires are ... stupid?" she said. "No, Mrs Winkings, I"m saying that they"re intelligent. And there"s your problem, right there. Why would a clever person want [1] This was a bit of a slur on Nobby, Vimes had to admit. Nobby was human, just like many other officers. It was just that he was the only one who had to carry a certificate to prove it. to risk getting their nadg- their head kicked in on a daily basis for thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances? Vampires have got class, an education, a von in front of their name. There"s a hundred better things for them to be doing than walking the streets as a cop. What do you want me to do, force them to join the force?" "Wwwouldn"t they be offered officer rank?" said John Smith. There was sweat on his face and his permanent smile was manic. Rumour had it he was finding the Pledge very hard going. "No. Everyone starts on the street," said Vimes. That wasn"t entirely true, but the question had offended him. "And on the Night Watch, too. Good training. The best there is. A week of rainy nights with the mists coming up and the water trickling down your neck and odd noises in the shadows ... well, that"s when we find out if we"ve got a real copper-" He knew it as soon as he said it. He"d walked right into it. They must have found a candidate! "Veil, zat is good news!" said Mrs Winkings, leaning back. Vimes wanted to shake her and shout: You"re not a vampire, Doreen! You"re married to one, yes, but he didn"t become one until a time when it is beyond human imagining that he could possibly have wanted to bite you! All the real Black Ribboners try to act normal and unobtrusive! No flowing cloaks, no sucking and definitely no ripping the underwired nightdresses off young ladies! Everyone knows John Not-A-Vampire-At-All Smith used to be Count Vargo St Gruet von Vilinus! But now he smokes a pipe and wears those horrible sweaters and he collects bananas and makes models of human organs out of matchsticks because he thinks hobbies make you more human! But you, Doreen? You were born in Cockbill Street! Your mum was a washerwoman! No one would ever rip your nightdress off, not without a crane! But you"re so ....nto this, right? It"s a damn hobby. You try to look more like vampires than vampires do! Incidentally, those fake pointy teeth rattle when you talk! Vimes?, "Hmm?" Vimes was aware that people had been speaking. "Mr Smith has some good news," said Vetinari. "Indeed yes," said John Smith, beaming manically "Wwwe have a recruit for you, commander. A vampire wwho wwants to be in the Wwwatch!" "Ant, of course, zer night vill not prezsent a problem," said Doreen triumphantly. "Ve are zer night!" "Are you trying to tell me that I must-" Vimes began. Vetinari cut in quickly. "Oh, no, commander. We all fully respect your autonomy as head of the Watch. Clearly, you must hire whomsoever you think fit. All I ask is that the candidate is interviewed, in a spirit of fairness. Yeah, right, thought Vimes. And politics with Uberwald will become just that bit easier, won"t it, if you can say you even have a Black Ribboner in the Watch. And if I turn this man down, I"ll have to explain why. And "I just don"t like vampires, okay?" probably won"t do. "Of course," he said. "Send him along." "He is in fact she," said Lord Vetinari. He glanced down at his paperwork. "Salacia Deloresista Amanita Trigestatra Zeldana Malifee..: He paused, turned over several pages, and said, "I think we can skip some of these, but they end "von Humpeding". She is fifty-one, but" he added quickly, before Vimes could seize on this revelation, "that is no age at all for a vampire. Oh, and she"d prefer to be known simply as Sally." The locker room wasn"t big enough. Nothing like big enough. Sergeant Angua tried not to inhale. A large hall, that was fine. The open air, even better. What she needed was room to breathe. More specifically, she needed room not to breathe vampire. Damn Cheery! But she couldn"t have refused, that would have looked bad. All she could do was grin and bear it and fight down a pressing desire to rip out the girl"s throat with her teeth. She must know she"s doing it, she thought. They must know that they exude this air of effortless ease, confident in any company, at home everywhere, making everyone else feel second class and awkward. Oh, my. Call me Sally, indeed! "Sorry about this, she said aloud, trying to force the hairs on the back of her neck not to rise. "It"s a bit close in here." She coughed. "Anyway, this is it. Don"t worry, it always smells like this in here. And don"t bother to lock your locker, all the keys are the same and anyway most of the doors spring open if you hit the frame in the right way. Don"t keep valuables in it, this place is too full of coppers. And don"t get too upset when someone puts holy water or a wooden stake in there." "Is that likely to happen?" said Sally. "Not likely" said Angua. "Certain. F"r instance, I used to find dog collars and bone-shaped biscuits in mine." "Didn"t you complain?" "What? No! You don"t complain!" snapped Angua, wishing she could stop inhaling right now. Already she was sure her hair was a mess. "But I thought the Watch was-" "Look, it"s nothing to do with what you ... what we are, okay?" said Angua. "If you were a dwarf it"d be a pair of platform soles or a stepladder or something, although that doesn"t happen so much these days. Mostly they try it on everyone. It"s a copper thing. And then they"ll watch what you do, you see? No one cares if you"re a troll or a gnome or a zombie or a vampire," much, she added to herself, "but don"t let them believe you"re a whiner or a snitch. And actually the biscuits were pretty good, to tell you the truth- Ah, have you met Igor yet?" "Many times," said Sally. Angua forced a smile. In Uberwald, you met Igors all the time. Especially if you were a vampire. "The one here, though?" she said. "I don"t think so." Ah. Good. Angua normally avoided Igor"s laboratory, because the smells that emanated therefrom were either painfully chemical or horribly, suggestively organic, but now she"d snuff them up with relief. She headed for the door with slightly more speed than politeness required, and knocked. It creaked open. Any door opened by an Igor would creak. It was a knack. "Hi, Igor," said Sally cheerfully. "Gimme six!" Angua left them chatting. Igors were naturally servile, vampires were naturally not. It was an ideal match. At least she could go and get some air now. The door opened. "Mr Pessimal, sir," said Cheery, ushering a man not much taller than she was into Vimes"s office. "And here"s the office copy of the Times. . Mr Pessimal was neat. In fact, he went beyond neat. He was a folding kind of person. His suit was cheap but very clean, his little boots sparkled. His hair gleamed, too, even more than the boots. It had a centre parting and had been plastered down so severely that it looked as though it had been painted on his head. All the city"s departments got inspected from time to time, Vetinari had said. There was no reason why the Watch should be passed over, was there? It was, after all, a major drain on the city coffers. Vimes had pointed out that a drain was where things went to waste. Nevertheless, Vetinari had said. Just nevertheless. You couldn"t argue with "nevertheless. And the outcome was Mr Pessimal, walking towards Vimes. He twinkled as he walked. Vimes couldn"t think of another way to describe it. Every move was ... well, neat. Shovel purse and spectacles on a ribbon, I"ll bet, he thought. Mr Pessimal folded himself on to the chair in front of Vimes"s desk and opened the clasps of his briefcase with two little snaps of doom. With some ceremony he donned a pair of spectacles. They were on a black ribbon. "My letter of accreditation from Lord Vetinari, your grace," he said, handing over a sheet of paper. "Thank you, Mr ... A. E. Pessimal," said Vimes, glancing at it and putting it on one side. "And how can we help you? It"s Commander Vimes when I"m at work, by the way." "I will need an office, your grace. And an oversight of all your paperwork. As you know, I am tasked to give his lordship a complete overview and cost/benefit analysis of the Watch, with any suggestions for improvement in every aspect of its activities. Your co-operation is appreciated but not essential." "Suggestions for improvement, eh?" said Vimes cheerfully, while behind A. E. Pessimal"s chair Sergeant Littlebottom shut her eyes in dread. "Jolly good. I"ve always been known for my co-operative attitude. I did mention about the Duke thing, did I?" "Yes, your grace," said A. E. Pessimal primly. "Nevertheless, you are the Duke of Ankh and it would be inappropriate to address you in any other way. I would feel disrespectful." "I see. And how should I address you, Mr Pessimal?" said Vimes. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a floorboard on the other side of the room lift almost imperceptibly. "A. E. Pessimal will be quite acceptable, your grace," said the inspector. "The A standing for - ?"Vimes said, taking his eyes off the board for a moment. "Just A, your grace," said A. E. Pessimal patiently. "A. E. Pessimal." "You mean you weren"t named, you were initialled?" "Just so, your grace," said the little man. "What do your friends call you?"





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